Desperate Give and the Real Take

Angel, with the blue eyes, lurked on the outskirts of our Chester, Pennsylvania Message Community Infusion in July. I don’t necessarily blame him for being wary of our enthusiastic bunch. How desperate do you have to be to clean up an empty city park, trim the trees, set up the praise team and band, bring in free food and give away free COVID shots—all so we can attract a potential contact who needs Jesus?

Very desperate. And I’m down with it.  It’s not a pretty scene, ever. People with things to do and places to go have little time to stop and assess their existential predicament. It’s the people parked on the bench, who need everything—now—that gravitate toward any light of life.

Our work here at Message puts us right in the middle of a desperate give and take.

We are at the nexus between those anxious to put people in the right Hands, and those, who need to be there. Jesus found Himself at the same physical crux of give and take one day. Parched and famished, He parked Himself by a well. Imagine Jesus, lacking the resources to have what is needed, yet, there’s plenty there. Oh how He found Himself in predicaments that track the human experience.

Anyway, Jesus had no way to get the water. He lingered, when “that woman” happened by to draw water. That woman, found herself alone also. As the story unfolds, we can reasonably infer that she was alone in her pain, and lacking a social circle. Here, two people on the spectrum of need meet, each having something to exchange. Jesus, shared the Water of Life. The woman, took it. She left refreshed, and left her bucket. Jesus, stayed, and was fantastically, extraordinarily filled. I imagine the warm rays of God’s presence infused His very soul. They momentarily disengaged His body’s sensors for hunger, and thirst. The little light in His heart constantly blinking yellow because so many failed to recognize His purpose was now full on green. Oh, that felt so good.

“Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.” But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about . . .  My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.  You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike!”

(John 4:1-6 New Living Translation).

Angel told me that he “was raised in religion,” but you wouldn’t see him inside anybody’s church or around anybody’s church people any time soon. “See, I know I’m not right,” he told me.

I’ve heard that before. It’s self-exclusion. I heard it one afternoon on a prayer walk in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray. Two men, one sitting, but the one standing and was still pinching what was left of a “cigarette.” He didn’t even want us to pray for him. “I’m out here,” he told me, “ain’t doing what I’m supposed to be doing.” And now Angel was saying the same thing.  I reminded him what the Bible says, that it is Jesus who both keeps us from falling, and Jesus who will present us, “faultless,” before the Father, (Jude 9). Don’t wait to get it straight.

     That nexus moment is life-altering.

     Olivia, a very young, and recently widowed woman with five kids (see story on p. 16), called Alice Dent, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity in Detroit at 10 p.m. the night after another Message infusion. We had spent a few hours breaking a sweat at her house that day. Some of us wired her new garage for lights. Others, like me, were throwing sod, spreading mulch and decorative stone, creating flowerbeds, and planting trees and flowers. When she went inside for the day, cleaned up and sank into the sofa, she stared at the new family Bible we gifted her. That’s when she called Dent. “Where should I start reading?”

     I found myself at the end of the day, encrusted with dirt, and pain in my back after working on Olivia’s house. It was the best I’ve ever felt.


This article is part of our 2021 September / October  Issue
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